To show the progress being made by the Thorburn Group and gain community feedback, Eastern’s recently-hired professional marketing partner, Town Hall meetings are scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday.
The meetings are set for 10 to 11 a.m. and 2 to 3 p.m. on Wednesday and 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. and 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. Thursday, all in the Lecture Hall of the Doudna Fine Arts Center.
The information in the presentation will be the same for all four meetings.
The Thorburn Group has worked together for six months with a group consisting of Eastern’s administrators and faculty.
This group includs biology professor and graduate coordinator Britto Nathan, marketing director Stacia Lynch, the associate director of marketing Christy Kilgore, Steve Rich, assistant vice president for advancement, Eastern President David Glassman and Josh Norman, associate vice president for enrollment management.
Norman said both groups have been working together to create a centralized brand for the university by using information from campus advocates. Thorburn was able to get this information by meeting with students, faculty, staff, alumni and prospective students.
“They used that information from brand advocates to formulate what’s called a brand foundation. A brand foundation has a central idea and ethos and pillars that are also central ideas,” Norman said. “That’s part of what will be presented at the Town Hcalls. It’s like, ‘This is who we are. This is our message. This is our future brand.’”
Norman said it is important for the marketing to go beyond just influencing prospective students.
For it to be successful, the brand must also make other people who influence the students’ college process, including parents, guidance counselors and teachers, aware of all Eastern has to offer.
“It’s really necessary in order for this endeavor to be effective that this campus lives and breathes the brand,” Norman said. “That can only happen with the campus’ involvement and feedback and participation in the creative processes.”
There are three parts to the marketing initiative.
Norman said these are creating brand awareness, shaping perceptions of Eastern and setting the university apart from competition.
“If students don’t understand who we are and what it is that we have to offer, it’s hard for them to make the decision,” Norman said. “It’s also hard for them to evaluate whether Eastern is the right fit for them as they’re navigating their college choice process.”
Norman said while he has often heard Eastern referred to as the hidden jewel of higher education, the university cannot afford to be that anymore. Students need to be aware of Eastern’s name and the unique experience it offers, he said.
During Town Hall meetings, attendees will be able to fill out feedback online to help shape the branding effort moving forward.
“I hope that we have the lecture hall filled and have to move into the Dvorak for the sessions because so much of campus is represented,” Norman said.
Eric Sickler, vice president of enrollment services for the Thorburn group, said it has been invigorating working with Eastern, as the university has never worked with a professional marketing group before.
The vitalization project, where different workgroups were tasked with analyzing departments and programs around Eastern, was also helpful, Sickler added.
“When we come back with a more clearly and consistently defined story of Eastern through this marketing process I think that will breathe new energy and life into the vitalization project,” Sickler said. “So the two are very much hand and glove.”
Sickler said after going over input from the meeting, the group will start placing advertisements and begin re-scripting recruitment presentations and activities.
The Thorburn Group are also working on creating a book with guidelines for Eastern’s marketing plan.
“It’s not unlike a student handbook, but it’s designed for marketers. It’s designed for people at Eastern who are charged with creating and designing and developing materials to promote Eastern,” Sickler said. “It’s also designed to inspire Eastern’s administrators and faculty and students to know what the Eastern story is and be sure and tell it consistently and in a compelling way.”
Sickler said meeting with the group of faculty and administrators weekly has really helped them come together in the marketing process.
“I’m extraordinarily excited but what I think doesn’t matter. What matters is how the community has wrapped its arms around this process already,” Sickler said. “This exercise is not creating a new and different Eastern Illinois University. It’s all about helping Eastern Illinois University tell its own authentic story.”
Chrissy Miller can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]